Mo Shafeek, Record Label Manager
#5: ATOMIC BLONDE - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 2XLP
2017 has been a very weird year. Maybe that's an understatement, but one of my most vivid memories from the year is Spencer and I being invited to watch (what was once called) THE COLDEST CITY in early January. The movie absolutely kicked our asses. We watched it in an empty movie theater, and when credits splashed on screen we thought we have just witnessed 2017 biggest hit.
It's rare we get to see a film that early, and also get to call dibs on its soundtrack. We were so all-in that Spence and I DJ'd multiple premieres for the film - South by Southwest in March and San Diego Comic-Con in July. The soundtrack was an incredible unifier for Spence and I (there's a bit of a musical generation gap between us) in that we could agree on the brilliance of every single needle-drop in the film. George Michael. Bowie. Nena. New Order. Ministry. Spence taught me all about the one-hit wonders Re-Flex. I learned that 'Major Tom' was originally German. Even 'Til Tuesday gave me an excuse to share some love of Aimee Mann.
But sadly ATOMIC BLONDE, as the film is now known, received a lukewarm reception. I'm still shocked that America didn't go nuts for Lorraine Broughton in the way they did for John Wick (David Leitch's other brilliant film). Maybe it was bad timing. Maybe it was overhyped. Or maybe people just missed. Either way, I'm hoping home video will be kinder to this film as I was hoping for sequels and more incredible soundtracks. Check it out if you're looking for something to watch over the holidays, and then try to look at me with a straight face and tell me that stairwell fight isn't an all-timer.
#4: SUPER CASTLEVANIA IV - Original Video Game Soundtrack 2XLP
When beginning on our CASTLEVANIA soundtrack campaign last year, I was eagerly awaiting the release of SUPER CASTLEVANIA IV, as it's my favorite soundtrack in the series. We're releasing SYMPHONY OF THE NIGHT and RONDO OF BLOOD / DRACULA X next year, and I know that most people are partial to those two, but SCIV holds a very special place in my heart. It is quite possibly my most listened to soundtrack (just by gameplay hours alone) that we've ever released. And that says a lot, that I'm not sick of hearing it even to this day. If VGM isn't really your thing, I still recommend this as a gateway to this strange and deceptively catchy genre. Listen to 'Mechanical Trick Mansion' and 'Simon Belmont's Theme'.
#3: MASTER OF NONE Season Two - Original Soundtrack 2XLP
I'd argue this is the best mixtape we've ever released. It's a testament to the Emmy-nominated music supervision team of Zach Cowie and Kerri Drootin, Creator Aziz Ansari, and even our very own Jay Shaw who worked on the show (and designed the package as well).
We were supposed to release MASTER OF NONE's first soundtrack... I still hope we do someday because this album is an absolutely stellar listen from front to back.
#2: BATMAN RETURNS - Expanded Motion Picture Soundtrack 3XLP
This one is truly an honor. We are following it up next year with BATMAN (1989), but I'll be real with you right now - this is the best BATMAN soundtrack. In the history of all of Batman's theatrical and television appearances, this is the pinnacle. I know Shirley Walker's BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES music is real special. And I know Hans Zimmer did some interesting stuff for THE DARK KNIGHT. And I know Neal Hefti's '60s BATMAN theme is pretty boss. But BATMAN RETURNS is classic in every sense of the word. The expanded edition is super rad, but if you missed out, don't sleep on the 2XLP version; it's special in a different way. Less completionist, but just as essential.
#1: JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack LP + 7-Inch
Anyone who knows me, knows how special working on JOSIE was. But for those who don't, I'll try to be succinct without gushing. From my very first year working at Mondo I've wanted to celebrate this underrated cult classic. When I stepped into the position of Record Label Manager, it was only a matter of time before I worked up the courage to tackle it... but it wasn't until I started speaking about it aloud that I realized that we had touched a nerve with a very passionate fanbase.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, the soundtrack to this iteration of JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS is a late-90s / early '00s pop-punk masterpiece. It's the best debut album, for a band that technically doesn't exist. It is fronted by Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and featuring songs written by Adam Schlessinger, Adam Duritz, Babyface, Biff Naked, and more. AND, we got to include the DuJour songs (that universe's equivalent of the Backstreet Boys or N'Sync).
It all culminated in a reunion of the cast and crew in LA, and one of the best (not hyperbole) concerts I've ever seen in my life, as Kay and her band took the stage as "Josie and the Pussycats" for the first time ever. At the very least, I can say maybe we made a few new fans, but for those who have been fans for years, I'm sorry it took us so long.
I could talk for hours about how absolutely special PORTAL is - both musically and from a design standpoint. Alan Hynes really created something special with that package. I have a similar love for Alan's work on ANOMALISA, and the only reason it didn't make it on my top 5 is because I sort of consider it a 2016 title since we worked on it so long. SUSPIRIA took everyone by surprise and I consider it one of the highest honors on this earth to be acknowledged by the Maestro Dario Argento, and to be trusted with his most celebrated film. Box Of Souls - The A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Box Set deserves high honors for Mike Saputo's work alone. I loved working with Mike on this project and I really cannot wait to create more amazing album covers with him next year, and hopefully for a very long time. Nicole Gustafsson's work on RATATOUILLE absolutely floored me when I saw it. That coupled with last year's THE FOUNTAIN, Nicole has become one of my absolute favorite artists. EVERYDAY IS KILL by Deadly Avenger is my most listened to record in the office. I've spun that one more than any other on this list, but mostly because it was new and blew me away from the first track.